"scientific discrimination," especially in pathology, "the recognition of a disease from its symptoms," 1680s, medical Latin application of Greek diagnōsis "a discerning, distinguishing," from stem of diagignōskein "discern, distinguish," literally "to know thoroughly" or "know apart (from another)," from dia "between" (see dia-) + gignōskein "to learn, to come to know," from PIE root *gno- "to know."
Penetration, or insight, goes to the heart of a subject, reads the inmost character, etc. Discrimination marks the differences in what it finds. Discernment combines both these ideas. [Century Dictionary]
also subitise, 1949, coined in an article in American Journal of Psychology, which describes it as "the discrimination of stimulus-numbers of 6 and below" and credits the suggestion of the word to Dr. Cornelia C. Coulter, the Department of Classical Languages and Literature, Mount Holyoke College. It is -ize + Latin subitus, past participle of subire "come or go stealthily" (see sudden).
early 15c., "use of sophistry; fallacious argument intended to mislead; adulteration; an adulterated or adulterating substance," from Medieval Latin sophisticationem (nominative sophisticatio), noun of action from past-participle stem of sophisticare "adulterate, cheat quibble," from Latin sophisticus "of sophists," from Greek sophistikos "of or pertaining to a sophist," from sophistes "a wise man, master, teacher" (see sophist). Greek sophistes came to mean "one who gives intellectual instruction for pay," and at Athens, contrasted with "philosopher," it became a term of contempt.
Meaning "worldly wisdom, refinement, discrimination" is attested from 1850.
c. 1300, "opposite, contrary in position or direction, turned backward," from Old French revers "reverse, cross, opposite" (13c.) and directly from Latin reversus, past participle of revertere "turn back, turn about, come back, return" (see revert). In reference to a gear mechanism enabling a vehicle to go backward without changing the rotation of the engine, by 1875. Reverse angle (shot, etc.) in film-making is from 1934. Reverse discrimination is attested from 1962, American English. Reverse dictionary, one in which the words are arranged alphabetically by last letter to first, is by 1954.
early 12c., "knowledge, divine wisdom;" late 12c., "power of discernment, sound judgment; that which is reasonable," senses all now obsolete, from Old Norse skil "distinction, ability to make out, discernment, adjustment," which is related to skilja (v.) "to separate; discern, understand," from Proto-Germanic *skaljo- "divide, separate" (source also of Swedish skäl "reason," Danish skjel "a separation, boundary, limit," Middle Low German schillen "to differ," Middle Low German, Middle Dutch schele "separation, discrimination;" from PIE root *skel- (1) "to cut").
The sense of "practical knowledge and ability, cleverness" is recorded by early 13c.
[Young's book] imagined an elite that got its position not from ancestry, but from test scores and effort. For him, meritocracy was a negative term; his spoof was a warning about the negative consequences of assigning social status based on formal educational qualifications, and showed how excluding from leadership anyone who couldn't jump through the educational hoops would create a new form of discrimination. And that's exactly what has happened. [Lani Guinier, interview, New York Times, Feb. 7, 2015]
c. 1200, distinccioun, "one of the parts into which something is divided; a chapter or paragraph;" late 14c., "action of distinguishing" by giving a distinctive mark or character to, or by observing existing marks or differences, from Old French distinction and directly from Latin distinctionem (nominative distinctio) "separation, distinction, discrimination," noun of action from past-participle stem of distinguere "to separate between, keep separate, mark off" (see distinguish).
Meaning "a distinctive nature or character" is late 14c.; sense of "a note or mark of difference (between) is from early 15c. Phrase distinction without a difference is by 1570s. Meaning "that which confers or marks superiority, excellence, or eminence" (what distinguishes from others) is recorded by 1690s.
"answering 'yes,' " mid-15c., from use in logic; from Old French affirmatif, earlier afirmatif (13c.), from Latin affirmativus, from affirmat-, past-participle stem of affirmare "to make steady; strengthen; confirm," from ad "to" (see ad-) + firmare "strengthen, make firm," from firmus "strong" (see firm (adj.)).
As a noun from early 15c., "that which affirms or asserts." American English affirmative action "positive or corrective effort by employers to prevent discrimination in hiring or promotion" is attested from 1935 with regard to labor unions (reinstatement of fired members, etc.). The specific racial sense is attested from 1961; by late 1970s the sense had shifted toward pro-active methods such as hiring quotas. Related: Affirmatively.
c. 1600, "action of criticizing, discrimination or discussion of merit, character or quality; a critical remark or disquisition," from critic + -ism. Meaning "art of judging of and defining the qualities or merits of a thing," especially "estimating literary or artistic worth" is from 1670s. Meaning "inquiry into the history and authenticity of a text" (the sense in higher criticism) is from 1660s.
In the first place, I must take leave to tell them that they wholly mistake the Nature of Criticism who think its business is principally to find fault. Criticism, as it was first instituted by Aristotle, was meant a Standard of judging well. The chiefest part of which is, to observe those Excellencies which should delight a reasonable Reader. [Dryden, preface to "State of Innocence," 1677]